Tag Archives: nuthatch

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A House Planning and Building Project in the Nuthatch Class

Over the past several weeks we’ve noticed a strong interest from the class to make houses. It began by a group of children drawing houses at the writing table and evolved into children cutting shapes they need to make houses, creating window shutters that flap using tape, and even painting their houses at the easel.

We asked families to please email us pictures of the outsides of their houses- any and as many angles as they wanted to share. When we returned from the December break these photographs were printed for children to use to start drafting their plans of how they would want to build a model of their houses.

We also had conversations about what an architect does, and we read the book Iggy Peck Architect. The class talked about how an architect builds things, but before they start building they need to draw, or draft, a plan. Children began drafting their plans for building their collage houses.

We have been inviting children to work on their drafts at the writing table in small groups. Each child has a piece of easel paper with a photograph of their house glued onto it.  Children are encouraged to notice the shapes and details of their house and use a pencil to draw what they notice. They have the option to use rulers if they want to. Teachers work closely with the children to label the different parts of the house they want to include in their construction. A variety of recycled materials are featured around the classroom to give the children some ideas about what they might need to build their house. Children are welcome to suggest materials not featured as well, and we  do our best to acquire what they need for their big ideas. On each piece of paper teachers are writing a list of materials that the children are hoping to have when they enter the building stage of their projects. We are taking donations of materials that may be used for children’s house ideas. An architect’s draft will be displayed next to a surface with their requested materials so that child can look at their plan while they build. We are also happy to find additional materials for the children if they decide they need to adjust their plan while they’re building.

A few weeks ago children began constructing their model houses, based on the draft they created. This is a project that requires many materials and patience, so one child at a time will be working on the building piece. We are reminding the children that everyone will get their turn to build, and we encourage them to visit other children as they build.

Some Extensions

Children have been practicing making plans with other children in the block area. They use a variety of stories to help them plan what to build, and they also access their block journals to draw up their own plans for their buildings. The class noticed the lined graph paper in the book Iggy Peck Architect and were interested in using it. The writing table now offers graph paper for the children to explore. We introduced blueprint templates. Children worked in teams and independently to create block designs based on the drawn plan. This practice will carry over into the house planning idea we have seen such a strong interest for. Children began making their own blueprints as an extension of what we started. Teachers cut out sponges to match the block shapes that children have been using. At a meeting, children helped to match the sponge shapes to the block shapes by using descriptive words and shape names to identify them. Children then helped choose the colors each shape should be. These shape sponges were then used by children to print their own blueprint designs. Teachers laminated each child’s work and children have used the blocks to build on their own and other classmate’s templates.

While children wait for their turn to construct their houses we are offering other building materials. Lincoln Logs have been featured for a couple weeks now, and groups of up to 5 children are sharing the materials. Really interesting designs are being created!

We will be adding different building items over the next few weeks, as we notice children’s interests. If anyone is interested in seeing some of the books we have used during this project, we will be putting together a book list. The books we’re featuring include ones that inspire the construction of houses and also images and stories of different kinds of homes around the world. We will continue to introduce new, relevant stories as the project continues. Here are some of the stories we have introduced so far: Iggy Peck Architect, Rosie Revere Engineer, Houses and Homes, Home, A House is a House For Me, Jack the Builder

Kayla Barrows and Stacey Festa, Nuthatch Teachers

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First keyboards

Before the Thanksgiving break, children began exploring My First Keyboard Book by Sam Taplin. This book has scales and songs composed using color dots, and each key has the corresponding color on it. We noticed many children playing these books with a lot of interest and concentration.

We made the keyboards available for the children to play upon returning from the break. Children were spending more and more time playing these songs, so during a meeting time, teachers invited the class to compose a song.

We teachers displayed drawing tools that matched the colors of the keys along with paper that had both lines and open space. We then asked if anyone had an idea for the song, and many children started saying colors. After teachers recorded the colors requested, the class was asked to listen to how their song sounded. Teachers played the notes from the colors drawn, and this lead to conversations about high and low sounds.

We then asked the children if hearing the song made them think of anything. Some children responded that they thought of scales, so we drew stairs. Others responded that they thought of the ABC’s, so we made some letters to illustrate the song.

We invited the children to compose their own songs if they were interested. There were many different approaches to their song writing. Some children decided to play a few songs from the book before writing their own, while others chose to start their own idea right away. When writing, children would sometimes start by using colors to draw their notes and then illustrate a picture to go along with it. Others would start with a picture idea and then compose a song while thinking about their picture. A few children decided to find a song from the book they really liked and copied it onto their own piece of paper. Some even thought of songs that were not in the book and transcribed their own versions onto paper.

The children eagerly participated in this project, and some have composed multiple songs. Many have proudly played their own pieces for peers and teachers. Some even sung along as they played using their own invented lyrics or those of a familiar song. The focus these children have demonstrated while reading and playing the songs from the book and their own creations has been inspiring! Teachers are working on laminating each child’s first compositions so they can continue to play their own songs and each other’s songs. We will also support this interest by having pianists available for children to listen to and look at on the iPad.

A photo gallery of the children’s exploration of the keyboards is below, followed by some videos of their keyboard play.

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Helping hold the bowl

Kindness

“I’ll get the soap for you” says a slightly taller child to a shorter one who couldn’t get the right angle on the soap dispenser.

At this time of year, teachers observe more and more spontaneous acts of kindness occurring in the classrooms. The children have had a few months in which to share experiences, get to know each other, and join community building activities and discussions with teachers. We see genuine caring expressed when a friend misses school, and children wonder together whether or not that friend is sick and if they will be returning soon. There are spontaneous gifts made and delivered to friends, spontaneous taking on of “helping” roles in the classroom, without prompting from teachers. It’s wonderful when we can begin to see our intentional support of the children’s sense of connection and community bearing fruit.

When we think about our classrooms, we teachers ask ourselves  “how can I notice, encourage, and then celebrate the acts of kindness that occur among the children?”

As we strengthen our own relationships with children, we are always aware that our most powerful teaching opportunities come through the model of our own interactions in the classroom. When teachers model kindness, respectful listening, forgiveness, and caring, children join.

We are also intentional about the ways our curriculum approaches can encourage children to appreciate diverse perspectives and learn to work together. This starts with simple activities that require working together or help from a friend.

For example, in a cooking project it helps to have someone hold the bowl for you when you stir. Each small contribution of an ingredient is a necessary addition to a finished product that we can all enjoy together – an everyday example of a whole bigger and better than each of it’s parts.

We make sure that there are many opportunities for children to collaborate on their work. A large box is much easier to paint with more than one child painting, and then it is available to everyone to use together. A long string can be laced from both ends. Floor puzzles may to be complicated for one, and exciting to complete with help. All these experiences support the notion that it is worthwhile to work with other people.

There are many classroom jobs that children can help each other with. Everyone is asked to write their name on a paper, but if a friend is willing to help with some tricky letters, children can learn from each other. We all must figure out how to file our papers or put our wet paintings on the drying rack, but sometimes a person appreciates a little help, and that help often comes from other children.

Once the environment has “set the stage” for children to see themselves as potential helpers, teachers make sure that helping and caring behavior is appreciated and recognized. Whether it’s as formal as a kindness bell system, where someone can ring a bell if they notice an act of kindness, or as spontaneous as a genuine thank you when a child sees a need and takes a kind action, we appreciate these successes and encourage all the children to appreciate them too.

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Map of the School Playground

The Map Project Continues

We recently decided to continue our map project by asking the children a basic question: “What is a map”?

We hadn’t worked directly with maps for a while, though children often stopped to talk about some our previous work by looking at the hallway documentation of our processes. We thought many children would be interested in continuing the conversation, and we wanted to include children who had not had a chance to directly participate before.

It turns out that many children were eager to share their ideas about what maps are. In reading through the list of ideas, you’ll notice quite a range of ideas, and that led to a rich discussion. Are humans the only animals that map? Is it true that all maps must be carried? How could a map be made using wood? If I can use my brain to imagine, and then describe, how to get to my house, is that a kind of map or not?

Our next step as teachers will be to share our perspectives about the information we now have about the children’s thinking, so that we can choose some next steps together.

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We asked all the children the same question: What is a Map?

Goldfinch Class:

• A map is the things you remember of your home and you can follow it.
• If you don’t know where to go you have to make a map.
• You might want to take a trip and you might get lost.
• You need a map to know where to go and to be safe from danger.
• You use a map if you don’t know where to go.
• Humans follow maps.
• It’s like the mother and baby owl story…She doesn’t need a map in the woods. She used her big eyes to see in the dark.
• Your brain is a map that is part of your body. Your brain can remember.
• A map is a piece of paper. It rolls up. It can be cardboard or wood. You have to be able to take it with you.
• Mice can’t follow maps.
• Pretend animals might use maps.

Nuthatch Class:

• A map is a thing that leads you all around the world.
• A map is a thing that tells you where to go.
• Some maps can talk. On phones phone maps can tell you where to go. Like Siri.
• You use a map when you don’t know where to go.
• All maps show you where to go.
• You’d look at a map.

Chickadee Class:

• A map is like in a car…
• You just draw a map.
• You use a map to have it lead you somewhere.
• Like to treasure chests – to find gold or silver inside.
• You walk and you look where you go on the map and the map tells you where to go.

Last year's whole school feast

Holiday Celebrations with Young Children

At Learning Circle, we’ve been thinking about the beginning of the holiday season from the children’s perspective, and offering concrete ways for the children to participate, plan, and celebrate together. At school, holiday celebrations and preparations are intentionally kept low-key and are guided by the interests and needs of individual children. As children informally share their own family traditions at class meeting or other discussions, they begin to appreciate the diverse ways families celebrate. Teachers listen carefully and offer opportunities for children to prepare for the holidays in ways meaningful to them – making a gift or card, talking about a trip or family visit with friends, sharing special foods, singing songs, or dancing together.

Every year the children enjoy a school-wide Thanksgiving feast. We bring in conversations and activities about “long ago”, a time when people needed to find, grow and prepare their own food, to build their own shelters to keep warm as the seasons changed. We talk about many of the things we have to be thankful for – families that care for and love us, enough food to eat, houses to live in, heat to keep us warm in the winter, enough clothing for each season, and good friends. Each class prepares gifts for a school wide “give-away”. Based on Native American traditions, the give away is an opportunity for children to fill baskets with hand made gifts. At our Thanksgiving feast, each child will choose one gift from each classroom basket. This year we are painting beautiful seashells, making bookmarks, and stringing beads to give as gifts. Each class also cooks for the feast. This year’s menu includes pasta with fresh garlic and tomato sauce, green beans, and fruit salad.

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At home, we know that along with the happy expectation of a holiday gathering with family and friends, come changes in our usual routine and often some pressure to meet deadlines. As the holidays draw closer, changes may include increased shopping trips, more time spent in the kitchen selecting and preparing a specially selected recipe, possibly re-arranging furniture to accommodate guests. There may be purchasing or getting holiday clothing ready for the holidays or packing and planning for an anticipated trip.

Children are affected by these changes. For young children especially, consistency of routine and an understanding of what’s happening next can be an important foundation in their sense of security. When young children notice changes in routine they may feel anxious or insecure. They may exhibit negative behavior, acting out or seeking attention, as a signal that they need some help with these feelings.

It’s important for parents to find ways to help children feel involved in holiday preparations. This involvement helps alleviate potential stress or insecurity, and helps to assure that the holidays offer opportunities for young children to grow and feel connected to extended family and family traditions.

If you will be traveling, talk with your child about family plans. Allow children to make some choices about what to take, and remember favorite items. This helps children with the transition of getting ready. If the trip includes visits to family, children can be encouraged to bring something meaningful to them as gifts, such as drawings or paintings.

If you are planning a gathering at home, it is helpful to involve children in planning and preparations for the day. Children can contribute to decisions about what to wear, may be able to help decide seat placement at the table, or may help prepare a simple recipe, such as cutting fruit or preparing a salad.

Adults might also want to avoid the pull towards the commercialism of the holidays by choosing toys and gifts that support play. Good toys for young children are open-ended; they can be used in a variety of ways. They offer play value over time; as children change and grow new ideas can be realized. They are well made, and will last over time, even with hard and varied use. They are not tied to TV programs, movies, or other media, so that play ideas come from each child’s imagination and not from an external source.

For more information and a wide variety of articles and resources on the impact media has on young children, try www.commercialfreechildhood.org, the website of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

For more information on toys, play, and young children, try TRUCE: www.truceteachers.org, the website for Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment